Previewing the Texas Longhorns: Part I - Coaching and Offense

The Longhorns come to the Rose Bowl and represent the first team of the year that has more talent on the roster than our UCLA Bruins.  The Longhorn roster is deep and highly touted.  Their recruiting classes are generally in the Top 10 annually per Scout.com.  However, like our Bruins, the recruiting success hasn't necessarily translated into wins of late.

Texas and UCLA do have a history, which has been fairly one-sided.  Route 66, anyone?  What about the following year? Last year, the 1-2 Bruins traveled to Austin and beat the #7 ranked 3-0 Longhorns 34-12 in a lopsided game.

Coaching Staff

Mack Brown is in his 14th season at Texas.  He's compiled a 135-34 record, including the 2005 National Championship. Despite the success, things have not all been well in Texas for Brown.  His 2010 team struggled to a 4-8 record, easily Brown's worst in Austin.  

Coach Brown's staff went over a major facelift this year.  Will Muschamp decided to take his talents to Florida, after serving 2 years as defensive coordinator and "coach in waiting".  Replacing Muschamp is Manny Diaz, a very capable defensive coordinator who spent the 2010 season in Starkville helping improve the Mississippi St. defense under Dan Mullen.  Diaz is the son of former Miami Mayor, Manny Diaz, and was tutored under Mickey Andrews and Chuck Amato at Florida St. and North Carolina St. between 1999-2006.  Prior to coaching at Florida St., Diaz worked at ESPN, and had not played collegiate football.  After leaving North Carolina St.,  Diaz spent four seasons at Middle Tennessee St. before being brought in by Mullen.  While Diaz may be short in the tooth, he is aggressive and likes to bring what he calls, "tactical pressure".  He runs a 4-3 base defense, but will use an array of blitzes by both linebackers and safeties.

Offensively, Texas replaced offensive coordinator Greg Davis with two coordinators, Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin.  Applewhite is familiar to most college football fans as the gutty quarterback who competed with Chris Simms at Texas for the starting quarterback position.  Following his brief flirtation with the NFL, Applewhite jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant at Texas before getting his break as offensive coordinator at Rice in 2006.  After only one season, he was hand picked by Nick Saban to run the offense and served as offensive coordinator for the Alabam Crimson Tide in 2007.  After a mediocre season, Applewhite returned to Texas as an Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach, and added Co-offensive Coordinator this season.  

Harsin previously served as offensive coordinator for Boise St. before coming to Texas this season.  He worked at Boise St. from 2001-2010, serving as a graduate student, tight ends coach, and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach beginning in 2006.  If you want a great rundown of what Harsin likes to do, check out Smartfootball.com's breakdown here.  Generically, get ready for a pro-spread kitchen sink.  

Quarterbacks

Texas just announced that it will use So. Case McCoy Fr. David Ash at quarterback, relegating last year's starter, Jr. Garret Gilbert, to third string.  Neither McCoy nor Ash redshirted (neither did Gilbert, for that matter), and quarterback appears to be Texas' weak link on offense.  While it appears Texas does not plan to use Gilbert, I would not rule the possibility out at this point.  Last weak's passing attack against was anemic, gaining only 123 yards on 12-20 passing, including 2 interceptions by Gilbert which led to use of the McCoy-Ash combination.


Case McCoy is the smallest of the quarterbacks at 6'2 200 lbs, the least heralded of the quarterbacks (3 Star vs. 4 and 5 Star), and has the weakest arm of the three- yet he finds himself QB1.  Why?  Well, partially by default, and partially because he is smart, moves around the pocket, and has the "gamer" intangible.  Like his elder brother, Colt, he's extremely accurate in short passing situations and capable of moving the chains on scrambles.

David Ash is bigger (6'3 215 lbs.) and was used as the primary rushing quarterback against BYU (9 carries for 36 yards).  He's not an explosive athlete by any means, but he has decent athleticism and size.  

Garrett Gilbert is the opposite of McCoy.  He has great size (6'4 218 lbs.) and a powerful arm.  He looks the part.  Unfortunately, following his relief appearance for McCoy in the National Championship Game against Alabama in 2010, Gilbert suffered through a poor season last year and hasn't started well this year.

Running Backs

 


The lack of production from the heralded quarterbacks may be head scratching, but the lack of production from Texas' stable of highly touted running backs is downright mystifying.  Five star all-universe Fr. Malcolm Brown has officially taken over the starting spot.  The 6'0 215 lbs. is a prototypical tailback, equally adept at running between or outside the tackles.  He does not possess elite top end speed, but he has enough to hit a homerun.  For the season, he has 154 yards on 30 carries, but has yet to score.

The rest of the stable is an impressive blend of power and speed.  Sr. Cody Johnson provides the power.  At 5'11 250 lbs., he is a load.  He did not play in last year's game in Austin, but he should see plenty of playing time this year as Texas' short yardage back.  He ran for two touchdowns against BYU, bringing his season total to 3.  The speed can be found in Jr. DJ Monroe.  The 5'9 175 lbs. scatback may not get many carries, but he makes the most of his opportunities.  He's gaining 10.1 yards per attempt on the ground, and 14 yards per catch through the air.

The second "primary" back will be filled by Sr. Foshwitt "Fozzy" Whittaker, who somehow still has eligibility despite seemingly being on the roster since Vince Young was around.  The 5'10 198 lbs. tailback has struggled this season, gaining only 37 yards on 13 carries with a long of 7.  The struggles may be due to the fact that his touches have been limited due to the amount of talent in the backfield, but he has much more talent than his numbers would indicate.


Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Another talented group that simply has not produced at the expected level, the Texas wide receiving corps brings three deep talent across the board.  Of course, wide receivers are dependant on quarterbacks getting them the ball, and the Texas quarterbacks simply have not been able to do so this season at a dependable rate.

Against Rice, So. Mike Davis racked up 115 yards and a touchdown on 3 catches.  The 6'2 186 lbs. wideout was shutout against BYU.  Davis will start at flanker and will be backed up by two entirely different receivers; RS. Fr. John Harris, a 6'3 206 lbs. load and 5'11 175 lbs. DeSean Hayes.  Harris has caught two balls for 13 yards, and Hayes has yet to catch a ball this season.

So. Darius White starts at the other wideout position after Malcolm Williams left the team in the offseason.  At 6'3 200 lbs., White brings good size and excellent leaping ability to the table.  He has only caught 3 balls this season for 28 yards.  White will be backed up by 6'0 190 Rs. Fr. Chris Jones, who has yet to catch a ball this season.

Texas does most of its damage in the slot, where Jr. Marquise Goodwin and Fr. Jaxon Shipley do their work.  Shipley has been a pleasant surprise this year.  The 6'1 185 lbs. younger brother of Jason has 5 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown on the year. The diminutive Goodwin (5'9 177 lbs.) only has 2 catches for 10 yards after catching 31 balls for 324 yards last year, but he is considered by some to be the fastest man in college football and is always a threat inside.

At tight end, Texas starts 6'3 218 lbs. Jr. DJ Grant, who continues his return from knee injury. Also look out for 6'3 240 lbs. So. Dominique Jones and 6'3 238 lbs. RS Fr. Darius Terrell. Interestingly, none of these three were actually recruited at tight end. Grant and Terrell were listed at wide receiver, and Jones was listed at defensive end.


Offensive Line

Texas returns only two offensive lineman from last year's starting group; SR C David Snow (6'4 295 lbs.) and So. RG Mason Walters (6'6 305). The other starting lineman consist of a senior and two sophomores; Sr. LG Tray Allen (6'4 310 lbs.). and So.'s LT Tray Hopkins (6'4 290 lbs.) and RT Paden Kelley (6'7 290 lbs.). The line may not wow you with size, which is the biggest reason that Texas has had problems running the ball over the years. They are all, however, immensely talented. Walters and Allen are former 5 star recruits, while Snow, Kelley, and Hopkins are all former 4 star recruits.

Texas' back-ups are equally heralded. So. Garrett Porter (6'6 305 lbs.) and RS Fr. Dominic Espinosa (6'4 295 lbs.) will back-up the three middle line positions. At the tackle spots, Jr. Luke Poehlmann (6'7 285 lbs.) will back-up both LT and RT.

That concludes Part I of the Texas preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments. We'll conclude the preview with a look at Texas's defense and special teams soon.
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